Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti is vowing to get tough on valet parking companies operating illegally without permits and who are taking metered parking spots meant for the public rather than using lots as required by the city.
“When they break the law, they’re going to have to actually pay for it,” Garcetti told NBC4, when questioned about the city’s lax enforcement of the current valet ordinance (which Garcetti sponsored in 2013).
Last month, an NBC4 I-Team undercover investigation exposed how some valets were parking cars at meters, in loading zones, even in red zones—much cheaper for the companies than renting space in lots. The I-Team documented how valets at Katsu-ya in Studio City were hogging most of the meters across the street from the restaurant, leaving customers with no choice but to valet park. Down the street at Cocina Condessa restaurant, valets were also caught on camera monopolizing sought-after street parking.
During our investigation, the I-Team also found that many of valet companies didn’t have the required permits to park cars, and some individual valets hadn’t undergone the required background checks to see if they have criminal records and clean driving records.
Mayor Garcetti now says he would like the City Attorney to prosecute some of these companies.
“We’re going to hit them either in the pocketbook, or if people have criminal prosecutions, I think that will send a loud and clear message to all that this is unacceptable,” Garcetti said.
After his interview with NBC4, Garcetti reportedly called City Attorney Mike Feurer to discuss how to get tough on valets who break the law.
Also in the wake of NBC4’s investigation, the LAPD conducted surveillance on several of the valet companies included in our story and issued citations to the valet operations who were operating illegally.
An LAPD detail wrote citations to the valets at Katsu-ya and to the valet company at Cocina Condessa.
But the cops told NBC4 that policing the city’s numerous valet companies is an uphill battle.
“We do feel outnumbered,” said LAPD Detective Corey Harmon.
Case in point — Prime Time Parking Services, which the I-Team caught coning off parking meters on Fairfax Avenue, so they — and not the public — could park cars there. The LAPD moved in and issued a citation to Prime Time’s head valet. But two weeks later, the I-Team saw the same valet illegally parking cars in the same spot on Fairfax. This time he’d affixed a sign to a meter saying motorists would be towed if they used that meter.
“We need to do some prosecutions. That will send a message,” Mayor Garcetti said.
It’s not the first time Garcetti has talked tough about valet companies. In 2009 he told NBC4, referring to rogue valet companies, “If you break the law, we’re going to shut you down.”
But so far, the city has never prosecuted a single valet company caught operating illegally without a permit. The cops usually just issue them warnings or 250 dollar citations.
The I-Team asked the manager of Katsu-ya to speak with us. He didn’t return our calls. When we approached the manager of Cocina Condessa outside his restaurant, he said he was too busy to talk.